Van Rides and Magazines – American Honey (2016)

This lifestyle isn’t for everyone.  So this is about a teenage girl with no family (Sasha Lane).  She crosses paths with a misfit band of magazine salespeople, and they take her in as one of their own.  They have no ties and travel from city to city, jumping from motel to motel, living fast and loose with no long term plans for the future.  I ended up watching this pretty cold; I read the one sentence synopsis on IMDb, but I watched no trailers, and the only reason why it caught my attention is because it is making appearances on many ‘best of’ lists.  With it being available on Netflix DVD, I figured why not.  While it is certainly well made, I can’t say I made any tangible connection with it.

1I don’t want to call it difficult to relate to, but I’ve got bigger fish to fry if I am ever placed in this girl’s situation.

Now this is from the acclaimed director of Fish Tank, a movie that I still haven’t found the time to watch.  I’ve got no frame of reference for her work, and because of that, it feels a bit odd to critique her art.  This is very much an indie movie, and you feel like you just happened to stumble in on this girl at a turning point in her life.  American Honey is well shot in a hypnotizing kind of way; this had my attention the entire time, and even though I viewed this at home, I never felt tempted to check my phone or give into potential distractions.  I did, however, choose to split the viewing of this into two parts.  It’s a reckless party drama, and one that ultimately succeeds in what it sets out to do, but it is well over two and a half hours long, and there really isn’t all that much of a narrative to it.  To expand, I watched half of this one night and the other half the proceeding morning.  My wife only caught the second half.  I honestly feel like I was able to fully catch her up after about three to four brief sentences, and I don’t feel like she missed all that much.

2And if I’m being honest, I don’t think I can recommend this to anybody who takes in chiefly mainstream movies.

American Honey isn’t without its redeeming qualities.  For one, I did like the performances.  This is the acting debut for newcomer Sasha Lane, and she turns in terrific work, nailing every emotional moment in this.  Shia LaBeouf is also good in this as well; as he continues on his descent in rejecting his celebrity status, we can continue to expect more and more roles like this from him.  The cinematography is very well done, and it is always alluring to the point of being interesting.  It is very much a slice of life story, and it kind of just cuts off at the end, which is pretty normal in this brand of tale.  I like that I felt that I was along for the ride, but I really don’t think this needed to be 163 minutes long.  It get repetitive, and even though you never get to a sense of safety for this vagabond, it still hits the same notes at a number of different points throughout.  It is an interesting study for this breed of human that has no place to call home, I just wish it executed in a more concise fashion.

American Honey (2016) ***

– Critic for Hire

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